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As the editors’ introduction notes, this is the first of two volumes examining the subject of children in slavery, in a pioneering attempt to expose at least part of an area that ‘has only recently become the focus of academic research’ (p. 1).
Whose culture, and more specifically whose objects, are the central questions in these two very different books. In modern Western legal systems, objects can have only one owner, though that owner may be a corporate or collective body. But what does it mean for a state or nation or community to own an object, and what should we make of claims to hold objects in trust for all humanity?
As the title of the book suggests, Geographies of Empire covers the period roughly from the beginning of the ‘scramble for Africa’ – following the British invasion of Egypt in 1882 – to the year by which many of the territories formerly acquired by European colonial powers had been lost or given up.
At the conclusion of her history of Marian devotion, Mother of God, Miri Rubin states, ‘For in woman’s capacity to act as a generous host, to contain a body in her body, there is an act of tremendous hospitality’ (p. 424).
The first principle of understanding history, I was taught, is to sympathize with the historical actors, to immerse oneself in their context and perspective.(1) Otherwise, history becomes a fabricated reconstruction – more about the writer's ideology than the events of the past.
Cities in Modernity: Representations and Productions of Metropolitan Space, 1840-1930 / Richard Dennis
Richard Dennis’ engaging book is about building bridges, both literal and metaphorical. It begins with a study of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, Tower Bridge in London and the Bloor Street Viaduct in Toronto, using them as a means of highlighting the eclectic methodologies and theoretical approaches to be applied throughout the work.
Like most practitioners in global history, Pamela Kyle Crossley, in What is Global History, engages this simple yet profoundly provocative question: ‘how to tell a story without a centre?’ In a smallish, 120-page treat of the question, Crossley provides a gripping overview of the field, along with its genealogy, trends and possibilities.
The first question which may spring to the mind of any reader of this collection is: is it necessary or useful? Given the appearance in the not too distant past of the Oxford History of the British Empire, together with its themed volumes, can another edited collection on the empire contribute anything new or revealing?
Discussing The Psychology of Nationalism and Internationalism, the American academic Walter Pillsbury estimated that:
In the year of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing it is perhaps timely for us to revisit the philosophy which inspired Pierre de Coubertin to develop the Olympic Movement, and its more familiar expression through the modern Olympic Games. Muscular Christianity, the theme of John J. MacAloon's edited volume (2007), is just that ethos.